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Facilitated physical activity as a treatment for depressed adults: randomised controlled trial

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e2758 (Published 06 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2758

Re: Facilitated physical activity as a treatment for depressed adults: randomised controlled trial

Reactions to this trial have been depressing! Given the high quality of the research, and the consistency of its results with other rigorously conducted research, it's hard not to ponder on the reaction at least as much as the trial.

It's far from easy to tease out exercise and depression in a rigorous way. So it's no surprise that we've been exposed to the results of so much highly biased research on the subject. The results from less rigorous research have aligned with so many people's desires for options to encourage people - not to mention strongly held beliefs about exercise and its virtuousness.

It's one of the key problems of health care generally: that people are so much more of critical of research they don't like the results of, than they are of the things they want most earnestly to be true. If only the reverse were true, we could avoid a great deal of harm.

But back to this trial. This is depression we're talking about, and while it's nice if people can do something towards their own recovery, if it's a very hard thing to do at the best of times (never mind the worst of times), the potential for people to blame themselves over not doing it could be high. Not to mention the potential for others to be reinforced in "pull your socks up" judgmentalism. Care is called for. Chalder et al have tackled an important question in a rigorous manner. Thanks!

***I've expressed my opinion about some aspects of this in a guest blog (& cartoon) at Scientific American: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2012/06/13/holy-sacred-co...

Competing interests: No competing interests

14 June 2012
Hilda Bastian
Editor & researcher
http://statistically-funny.blogspot.com
Washington DC USA